This was it – the day we were to face Tizi Tichka! When planning this section of our trip we had contemplated the options of either hiring a car and driving ourselves or hiring a car and driver. We had ended up with the latter because we’d been scared off by what we’d read about Tizi Tichka – the pass through the High Atlas Mountains that had claimed many a lives. So to prepare ourselves we asked Abdul to let us know when we were starting on the pass. We also sat strategically to minimise distress to those of us with a fear of heights.
The road was certainly full of plenty of hairpins and reached about 2 200m but it was well paved with good edge protection so not nearly as perilous as some travellers had made out. We had a few stops along the way as dozers perched about 100m about us scraped the side of the mountain and the graders on our level cleared the road of the fallen rocks for us to pass.
We passed through some lovely little towns aside running rivers before we reached our destination of Imlil. This lovely little village is a base for serious mountain climbing. We figured we’d been doing boot camp religiously every morning so wouldn’t be necessary to do anything as crazy as mountain climbing!
We wandered around and then just sat back and enjoyed the views of the snowcapped mountains before taking in yet another tagine (we were pretty much over them by now). I also made the mistake of sharing with the girls that while they were getting money out that day Abdul had asked if I was married and then made the very generous offer for me to stay with him in Morocco. The girls were shocked that I’d declined and of course went on to totally overuse the humour of the scenario for the duration of the trip.
From Imlil we started our trek across to Essaouira, skirting Marrakech in the process.
Along the way we stopped to get a photo of some goats in an Argan tree. They hang out in the trees in the Argan forests chewing the nuts. Given the forests aren’t accessible to the public the entrepreneurial locals had found a way to capitalise on the quirky habit of these goats. Payment of a small tip and we were on our way again.
We called into an Argan cooperative (they’re run only by women) with the hope of buying some Argan oil. The process of obtaining the oil is all done by hand – cracking and grinding Argan nuts to produce the oil (no surprise it wasn’t an attractive occupation for men). Alas, no purchases again. The labelling of the bottles all looked rather unprofessional and they didn’t display any of the info we’d read should be displayed to confirm it was legitimate Argan oil – none of us felt like paying AUD60 for a bottle of vegetable oil.
We were dropped off to our lovely apartment in Essaouira where we farewelled Abdul. He thanked us for visiting his country – despite knowing he’d been picking up the usual commissions a guide gets for referrals to shops and restaurants he’d been a great driver – safe and always happy to answer our often bizarre questions. We were ready for our next phase of the adventure.
Our apartment was right near the port so we headed out in search of chargrilled sardines. When we got to the gate of the old town we noticed there were film lights on elevating work platforms and when we got to the marina we were stopped from entering because filming was occurring. Turned out John Wick 3 was being shot – our hearts skipped a beat at the prospect of meeting Keanu!
Karen wasn’t digging the look of the fish market and isn’t a seafood eater so headed into town for a bite to eat while Tan, Leigh and I selected some sardines, fish, prawns and calamari and the staff dutifully cooked it up for us on the charcoal bbqs. It was all delicious and we marvelled at how far Tan had come since we arrived to now – sitting eating from a place where they were hosing the floor under us as we ate seafood that was sitting out on the street’s walkway by the cats, birds and flies.
We managed to still be in the Medina when a storm blew in – it was a very wet run home!
The next morning Tan and Leigh ventured off for a flash breakie and Karen went off for a spot of shopping in the Medina. I volunteered to take a taxi to the local supermarket to pick up some supplies for dinner and drinks on our terrace. The taxi ride was hilarious. I managed to hail one down and fix the price. There were two very old Berber women already in the taxi so I assumed they’d be getting out along the way. They kept smiling at me during the ride and as they got out one (with fingers half yellow from Henna) kept blowing me kisses – so sweet.
I managed to make the supermarket purchases with a few bits thrown in to sample some unknown items; sticking to local wine given the price of imported!
The day was spent wandering around the very hassle free Medina chatting to lots of lovely locals, including Karim, a Rastafarian looking dude who recognised our accents and so shared his stories of living in Mackay and Airlie Beach. Turns out he was a yoga instructor – would have been lovely to have a sunset or sunrise practice on the terrace but didn’t think the bikini top would be enough to hold me in for down dog!
The night was spent enjoying the sunset from the terrace, sipping wine and eating tapas all the while impressed that the two ocean boulevard soccer fields remained full until well after midnight.
Next stop Marrakech…